Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races took the first step toward returning more money to bettors Sept. 9 when the West Virginia Racing Commission approved a double-digit percentage decrease in pari-mutuel takeout for four wagers.
If successful, takeout reductions could be requested for other wagers, said Erich Zimny, director of racing operations at Charles Town. Officials said takeout rates never have varied since Charles Town opened in 1933.
Takeout for trifectas, superfectas, pick threes, and pick fours will shift from 25% to 22% effective Sept. 17. The drop of three percentage points reflects an overall takeout reduction of 12% for the four bets.
“We’ve listened to our customers, weighed the risks and rewards for our business, and arrived at this decision,” Zimny said. “Cutting the price of two-thirds of the exotics we offer by a double-digit percentage is both significant and, at a minimum, a step in the right direction.”
The Charles Town Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association signed off on the takeout reduction.
Average daily handle at Charles Town has increased each month this year when compared with the same month in 2010. Nightly betting was particularly high in the winter and spring when the track had less competition in the simulcast marketplace.
Zimny said reductions in takeout for win, place, show, daily double, and exacta wagers—something that had been discussed earlier—will hinge on how the lower rate for the other exotic bets affects handle.
“We believe this will be popular with our customers now, but we’re also trying to gather information to make the correct long-term business decisions," Zimny said. "If our customers respond positively and these pools increase substantially, further reductions are certainly on the table, but that’s something we have to see play out in practice first.”
Charles Town is the second West Virginia racetrack to win approval for a takeout reduction this year. The WVRC earlier allowed Mardi Gras West Virginia, formerly known as Tri-State Greyhound Park, to cut takeout on win, place, and show bets to 9.4% in an effort to grow handle.
The Sept. 17 “Race for the Ribbon” program at Charles Town will feature six stakes including the $400,000 Charles Town Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. First post time is 6 p.m. EDT.